Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NYO - News Story 1 - Biden Unbound: Lays Into Clinton, Obama, Edwards

NYO - News Story 1 - Biden Unbound: Lays Into Clinton, Obama, Edwards

By contrast with what Mr. Biden describes alternately as his opponents’ caution and their detachment from reality, the Senator from Delaware has for months been pushing a comprehensive plan to split Iraq into autonomous Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish ethnic regions that is controversial, to say the least.
Under the plan, local policing and laws will be the responsibility of regional authorities. Most of the American troops would be withdrawn, with small numbers remaining to help with anti-terrorism operations. The ensuing chaos from ethnic migrations within Iraq would be contained with the help of political pressure created by a conference of Iraq’s neighbors.

But the idea of an American endorsement of Iraqi federation along those lines has drawn criticism from just about every ideological corner of the foreign-policy establishment. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, another potential 2008 candidate who played a major role in negotiating the peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia, said in a recent interview that the Biden plan would have people in mixed cities like Baghdad “fleeing for their lives.” Richard Perle, one of the chief architects of the war in Iraq, who resigned from his advisory position at the Pentagon in 2003 after a conflict-of-interest scandal, called the idea “harebrained.” And perhaps most notably, the original author of the partition plan, former Council on Foreign Relations president Leslie Gelb, has suggested that spiraling chaos on the ground in Iraq may have already rendered it unworkable.

Mr. Biden counters their criticism by insisting that Iraq has already fractured along ethnic lines, and that the only pragmatic approach at this point is to police the process in a way that could prevent a wider civil war and, eventually, lead to a sort of stability.

“You have to give them breathing room,” he said.

The Iraq he envisions has three ethnically homogenous enclaves, with a central government responsible for securing the country’s international borders and distributing oil revenues.

He’d put the Shiite majority in the south, limiting their geographic control but keeping them from being drawn into a wider Sunni-Shiite conflict.

He’d move the Sunni majority into the oil-poor Anbar province in the West, but they would be guaranteed a cut of oil revenues worth billions of dollars. Mr. Biden’s hope is that the oil money and relative calm would drain the loyal Baathist insurgency of support while simultaneously making the province less amenable to Al Qaeda provocateurs.

“The argument that you make with Sunni tribal leaders is, ‘You are not going to get back to the point where you run the show,’” said Mr. Biden. They will have to be made to understand that “you get a much bigger piece of the pie by giving up a little of the pie.”

He’d keep the Kurds up in the north, where they already enjoy a measure of de facto autonomy, but would seek guarantees that they would not take it upon themselves to purge Sunni residents from the mixed city of Kirkuk, or to lay exclusive claim to the enormous oil resources in that region, or to secede from Iraq by forming an independent Kurdistan.

Mr. Biden said he has made the argument to Kurdish leaders over the course of his seven trips to Iraq as follows: “You will be eaten alive by the Turks and the Iranians, they will attack you, there will be an all-out war.”

The clear implication is that the United States, not for the first time, would be unable to protect them. “I don’t see how we could,” he said.

Mr. Biden disagrees with foreign leaders like Britain’s Tony Blair and Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, who say that the key to fixing Iraq’s problems is solving the dispute between Israel and Palestinians.

“They are wrong, because I think it is a veiled way to do what the Europeans and the Arabists have always wanted to do, which is back Israel into a corner,” he said. “They still blame Israel.”

Mr. Biden says that support for his Iraq plan is growing. The influential New York Senator Chuck Schumer has declared at various times that he supports the plan—albeit in an uncharacteristically quiet manner—as has Michael O’Hanlon, a prominent Iraq policy expert at the Brookings Institution.

But their support, for Mr. Biden, is almost an afterthought. If one thing is clear about him, it is that he doesn’t mind being alone.

“They may be politically right, and I may be politically wrong,” he said. “But I believe I am substantively right, and their substantive approaches are not very deep and will not get us where I want to go.”

I don't always agree with Biden, but at least he has a plan for foreign policy, unlike the other Democratic nominees, who he rips in the inte
rview.

CNS STORY: Vatican newspaper denounces reporter who posed as penitent for expose

CNS STORY: Vatican newspaper denounces reporter who posed as penitent for expose:

"The reporter made his false confessions to 24 different priests in five Italian cities, including Rome. The magazine said the idea was to see how priests handle difficult pastoral situations and whether they followed the strict norms laid out by church teaching.

The reporter, for example, told two priests he was HIV-positive and wondered whether he should use a condom when having sexual relations with his girlfriend. One told him no, and the other said it was a question of conscience, the magazine reported.

More than once, the magazine said, priests gave quite different advice on his supposed 'sins,' which included matters relating to homosexuality, divorce, stem-cell research, euthanasia and prostitution.

One issue that found unanimous condemnation by confessors was abortion, the magazine said."

Sky News: Eight People Arrested In Terror Swoop

Sky News: Eight People Arrested In Terror Swoop

The eight people arrested by terror police in Birmingham were allegedly planning an Iraq-style kidnapping and beheading in the UK.

Sky's Crime Correspondent Martin Brunt says they intended to post a video of the hostage being tortured and killed on the internet.

Their target was a British Muslim soldier in his twenties who is now under police protection.

The soldier, who has not been named, has served with UK forces in Afghanistan.

His abduction would have mirrored the kidnappings of the British hostages Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan by Iraqi insurgents.

[...]

The fact the aim was apparently not to cause mass casualties, as in previous terror attacks, signalled a "chilling" change in tactics.

The suspects had been tracked in a combined police operation led by the Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit.

They were supported by officers from the West Midlands police and the Metropolitan Police.

Officers swooped on 12 addresses in the Sparkhill, Washwood Heath, Kingstanding and Edgbaston areas of Birmingham at 4am.

West Midlands police said the eight were held "on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000.

"Twelve addresses have been secured and sealed off... and all are currently being searched."

The statement warned: "We are mindful that communities, locations or individuals don't become a target as a result of recent events.

"Hate crime will not be tolerated and we will take robust action where necessary."

A Home Office spokesman said: "This operation is a reminder of the real and serious nature of the terrorist threat we face."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Brain Man, One Man's Gift May Be The Key To Better Understanding The Brain - CBS News

Brain Man, One Man's Gift May Be The Key To Better Understanding The Brain - CBS News:

"Twenty-four years ago, 60 Minutes introduced viewers to George Finn, whose talent was immortalized in the movie 'Rainman.' George has a condition known as savant syndrome, a mysterious disorder of the brain where someone has a spectacular skill, even genius, in a mind that is otherwise extremely limited.

Morley Safer met another savant, Daniel Tammet, who is called 'Brain Man' in Britain. But unlike most savants, he has no obvious mental disability, and most important to scientists, he can describe his own thought process. He may very well be a scientific Rosetta stone, a key to understanding the brain.

[...]


It is estimated there are only 50 true savants living in the world today, and yet none are like Daniel. He is articulate, self-sufficient, blessed with all of the spectacular ability of a savant, but with very little of the disability. Take his math skill, for example.

Asked to multiply 31 by 31 by 31 by 31, Tammet quickly – and accurately – responded with "923,521."

And it’s not just calculating. His gift of memory is stunning. Briefly show him a long numerical sequence and he’ll recite it right back to you. And he can do it backwards, to boot.

That feat is just a warm-up for Daniel Tammet. He first made headlines at Oxford, when he publicly recited the endless sequence of numbers embodied by the Greek letter "Pi." Pi, the numbers we use to calculate the dimensions of a circle, are usually rounded off to 3.14. but its numbers actually go on to infinity.

Daniel studied the sequence – a thousand numbers to a page.

"And I would sit and I would gorge on them. And I would just absorb hundreds and hundreds at a time," he tells Safer.

It took him several weeks to prepare and then Daniel headed to Oxford, where with number crunchers checking every digit, he opened the floodgates of his extraordinary memory.

Tammet says he was able to recite, in a proper order, 22,514 numbers. It took him over five hours and he did it without a single mistake.

[...]

Daniel was recently profiled in a British documentary called “Brainman.” The producers posed a challenge that he could not pass up: Learn a foreign language in a week – and not just any foreign language, but Icelandic, considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn.

In Iceland, he studied and practiced with a tutor. When the moment of truth came and he appeared on TV live with a host, the host said, "I was amazed. He was responding to our questions. He did understand them very well and I thought that his grammar was very good. We are very proud of our language and that someone is able to speak it after only one week, that’s just great."

"Do you think that Daniel, in a certain way, represents a real pathway to further understanding the brain?" Safer asks Dr. Ramachandran.

"I think one could say that time and again in science, something that looks like a curiosity initially often leads to a completely new direction of research," Ramachandran replies. "Sometimes, they provide the golden key. Doesn't always happen. Sometimes it's just mumbo-jumbo. But that may well be true with savants."

Daniel continues to volunteer for scientists who want to understand his amazing brain. But he is reluctant to become what he calls “a performing seal” and has refused most offers to cash in on his remarkable skills.

"People all the time asking me to choose numbers for the lottery. Or to invent a time machine. Or to come up with some great discovery," he explains. "But my abilities are not those that mean that I can do at everything." "

Monday, January 29, 2007

Awesome Star map

Awesome star map

This scaled map shows how far things are from the Earth, and changes scales to show you everything from the earth's core to the most distant microwave residue of the big bang at the farthest reaches of the universe. Really really cool. It's a huge gif file, scroll to the bottom and work your way up!

Leader of Shiite religious cult killed by U.S., Iraqi forces - Los Angeles Times

Leader of Shiite religious cult killed by U.S., Iraqi forces - Los Angeles Times:

"BAGHDAD -- American and Iraqi forces killed the leader of a Shiite religious cult, known as the Heaven's Army, along with several hundred armed members who had planned to launch an attack in the holy city of Najaf, including against the country's most known religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraqi officials said today.

The gunmen planned to attack during ceremonies marking one of the holiest Shiite holidays, in the Islamic month of Muharram.

At least 600 cult members, hiding on the city's outskirts in palm date orchids, had been digging trenches and were planning to disguise themselves as pilgrims, Maj. Gen. Othman Ghanemi, the Iraqi commander who heads the Najaf region, told the Associated Press.

He said the gunmen planned to kill as many senior clerics as they could, including Sistani, apparently because they believed the violence would cause the Imam Mahdi, the last in the line of Shiite saints who disappeared more than 1,000 years ago, to reappear.

Iraqi authorities identified the leader of the fringe group as Dyaa Abdul Zahra, also known as Thamir Abu Gumar, who was said to be armed with two pistols when he was killed. At least 60 cult members were wounded and 120 were captured. The death toll ranged from 150 to 400, officials said.

In addition, about 500 automatics rifles were recovered during the raid, along with mortars, heavy machine guns and rockets, Ghanemi told the A.P.

The militant group's members included Shiite and Sunni extremists and foreign fighters, Najaf government officials said. They pitched a daylong battle against Iraqi and American troops, in which a U.S. helicopter crashed, killing two U.S. troops. In a separate attack, five teenage girls also were killed in a mortar attack at a Baghdad school, authorities said."

The Sun Online - News: You are undie surveillance

The Sun Online - News: You are undie surveillance:

"OFFICIALS are bracing themselves for a storm of public outrage over their controversial X-ray cameras scheme.

As part of the most shocking extension of Big Brother powers ever planned here, lenses in lampposts would snap “naked” pictures of passers-by to trap terror suspects.

The proposal is contained in leaked documents drawn up by the Home Office and presented to PM Tony Blair’s working group on Security, Crime and Justice.

But the prospect of the State snooping on individuals’ most private parts is certain to spark national fury.

And officials are battling to find a way of dealing with that reaction.

A January 17 memo seen by The Sun discusses the cameras, which can see through clothes.

It says “detection of weapons and explosives will become easier” and says cameras could be deployed in street furniture.

[...]

The memo says: “The social acceptability of routine intrusive detection measures and the operational response required in the event of an alarm are likely to be limiting factors.

“Privacy is an issue because the machines see through clothing.”

Beside cameras, officials are also considering systems known as millimetre wave imaging and THz imaging and spectroscopy.

All are routinely used in airports and other secure places to detect explosives and weapons in luggage and on people.


Rumbled ... US system 'strip-searches' smugglers


Air passengers are now chosen at random for full X-ray examinations — and must agree to it.

Technology could also be used to halt theft, with fingerprint scanners fitted to many items.

Elsewhere, tagged offenders could be sent electronic pulses to remind them not to re-offend.

Cops would also get the power to build a database of everyone in the land. Three-dimensional CCTV pictures would be coupled with records of people’s mobile phones and even their travel cards to get details of their movements and habits.

Facial recognition systems to help track individuals’ movements are also being considered."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

My Way News - YouTube to Share Revenue With Users

My Way News - YouTube to Share Revenue With Users:

"DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) - Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube, said Saturday that his wildly successful site will start sharing revenue with its millions of users.

Hurley said one of the major proposed innovations is a way to allow users to be paid for content. YouTube, which was sold to Google for $1.65 billion in November, has become an Internet phenomenon since it began to catch on in late 2005. Some 70 million videos are viewed on the site each day.

'We are getting an audience large enough where we have an opportunity to support creativity, to foster creativity through sharing revenue with our users,' Hurley said. 'So in the coming months we are going to be opening that up.'

Hurley, who at 30 is one of the youngest Internet multimillionaires, gave no details of how much users might receive, or what mechanism would be used.

In October 2005, Revver - which like YouTube offers video clips online - announced plans to attach advertising to user-submitted videos and give their creators a cut of the profits. Revver has said it would split the ad revenue evenly with content creators."

Friday, January 26, 2007

"Presenteeism" afflicts business, experts say - Yahoo! News



"Presenteeism" afflicts business, experts say - Yahoo! News
: "NEW YORK, Jan 26 (Reuters Life!) - Practically every workplace has one -- the employee who comes to the job aching, coughing and sneezing.

So-called 'presenteeism,' or going to work when sick, is a persistent problem at more than half of U.S. workplaces and costs U.S. business a whopping $180 billion a year, research shows.

Like its more notorious counterpart absenteeism, it takes on growing importance as employers try to keep an eye on productivity and the bottom line, experts say.

'Employers are increasingly concerned about the threat that sick employees pose in the workplace,' said Brett Gorovsky, an analyst at CCH, a Riverwoods, Illinois-based provider of business and corporate law information and a division of Wolters Kluwer.

'Presenteeism can take a very real hit on the bottom line, although it is often unrecognized,' he said.

Recognition of the issue is growing, however, as CCH research shows 56 percent of human resource executives see presenteeism as a problem. That's up from 39 percent making the same complaint two years ago, Gorovsky said.

Presenteeism costs employers in terms of lowered productivity, prolonged illness by sick workers and the potential spread of illness to colleagues and customers, experts say.

Presenteeism can prove elusive to measure, unlike absenteeism, said Cheryl Koopman, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and an expert on workplace stress and presenteeism."

Does Anyone Else Detect a Trend? Blackfive

Does Anyone Else Detect a Trend? Blackfive

What needs to be understood is the central role that Al Qaeda — or more accurately its successor organization, a group called the Islamic State of Iraq — is playing on these fronts and the diminishing role of all the other insurgent groups.

The wider Sunni insurgency — the groups beyond Al Qaeda — is being slowly, and surely, defeated. The average insurgent today feels demoralized, disillusioned, and hunted. Those who have not been captured yet are opting for a quieter life outside of Iraq. Al Qaeda continues to grow for the time being as it cannibalizes the other insurgent groups and absorbs their most radical and hardcore fringes into its fold. The Baathists, who had been critical in spurring the initial insurgency, are becoming less and less relevant, and are drifting without a clear purpose following the hanging of their idol, Saddam Hussein. Rounding out this changing landscape is that Al Qaeda itself is getting a serious beating as the Americans improve in intelligence gathering and partner with more reliable Iraqi forces.
In other words, battling the insurgency now essentially means battling Al Qaeda. This is a major accomplishment.

Last October, my sources began telling me about rumblings among the insurgent strategists suggesting that their murderous endeavor was about to run out of steam. This sense of fatigue began registering among mid-level insurgent commanders in late December, and it has devolved to the rank and file since then. The insurgents have begun to feel that the tide has turned against them.
In many ways, the timing of this turnaround was inadvertent, coming at the height of political and bureaucratic mismanagement in Washington and Baghdad. A number of factors contributed to this turnaround, but most important was sustained, stay-the-course counterinsurgency pressure. At the end of the day, more insurgents were ending up dead or behind bars, which generated among them a sense of despair and a feeling that the insurgency was a dead end.

The Washington-initiated "surge" will speed-up the ongoing process of defeating the insurgency. But one should not consider the surge responsible for the turnaround. The lesson to be learned is to keep killing the killers until they realize their fate.

General David Petraeus, whom President Bush has tasked to quell the insurgency, spent the last year and a half updating the U.S. Army and Marine Corps's field manual for counterinsurgency. There's plenty of fancy theory there, as well as case studies from Iraq. I don't know how much of the new manual is informed by General Petraeus' two notable failures in Iraq: building a brittle edifice of government in Mosul that collapsed at the first challenging puff, and the inadequate training and equipping of the Iraqi army due to corruption and mismanagement.

General Petraeus walked away from those failures unscathed and hence unaccountable. He re-enters the picture with major expectations. Most commentators, especially those who begrudge attributing any success to Mr. Bush, will lionize the general as he takes credit for this turnaround and speeds it up. Let's hope that he has enough sense to allow what works to keep working and to improve on it, rather than trying to put his own stamp on things and test out the theories he's developed.

The best way to use the extra troops would be to protect the Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad from Shiite death squads. This will give an added incentive for Sunnis to turn against the militants operating in their midst. For most Sunnis, the insurgency has come to be about communal survival, rather than communal revival. They no longer harbor fantasies of recapturing power. They are on the run and are losing the turf war with the Shiites for Baghdad.

Sunni sectarian attacks, usually conducted by jihadists, finally provoked the Shiites to turn to their most brazen militias — the ones who would not heed Ayatollah Sistani's call for pacifism — to conduct painful reprisals against Sunnis, usually while wearing official military fatigues and carrying government issued weapons. The Sunnis came to realize that they were no longer facing ragtag fighters, but rather they were confronting a state with resources and with a monopoly on lethal force. The Sunnis realized that by harboring insurgents they were inviting retaliation that they could do little to defend against.
Sadly, it took many thousands of young Sunnis getting abducted by death squads for the Sunnis to understand that in a full-fledged civil war, they would likely lose badly and be evicted from Baghdad. I believe that the Sunnis and insurgents are now war weary, and that this is a turnaround point in the campaign to stabilize Iraq.

Still, major bombings will continue for many years, for Al Qaeda will remain oblivious to all evidence of the insurgency's eventual defeat. The Baathists, and jihadist groups like Ansar al-Sunna, the Islamic Army of Iraq, and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, may be collapsing due to aimlessness and despair, but Al Qaeda still enjoys the clarity of zealotry and fantasy. Right now, they are arm-twisting other jihadist groups to submit to them and are also taking credit for the large-scale fighting that continues in Iraq.

SPACE.com -- Mars' Missing Air Might Just be Hiding

SPACE.com -- Mars' Missing Air Might Just be Hiding:

"Rather than having had its air knocked out into space, Mars might just be holding its breath.

New findings suggests the missing atmosphere of Mars might be locked up in hidden reservoirs on the planet, rather than having been chafed away by billions of years' worth of solar winds as previously thought.

Combining two years of observations by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, researchers determined that Mars is currently losing only about 20 grams of air per second into space.

Extrapolating this measurement back over 3.5 billion years, they estimate that only a small fraction, 0.2 to 4 millibars, of carbon dioxide and a few centimeters of water could have been lost to solar winds during that timeframe. (A bar is a unit for measuring pressure; Earth’s atmospheric pressure is about 1 bar.)"

Troops Authorized to Kill Iranian Operatives in Iraq - washingtonpost.com

Troops Authorized to Kill Iranian Operatives in Iraq - washingtonpost.com

"There were no costs for the Iranians," said one senior administration official. "They are hurting our mission in Iraq, and we were bending over backwards not to fight back."

Three officials said that about 150 Iranian intelligence officers, plus members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Command, are believed to be active inside Iraq at any given time. There is no evidence the Iranians have directly attacked U.S. troops in Iraq, intelligence officials said.

But, for three years, the Iranians have operated an embedding program there, offering operational training, intelligence and weaponry to several Shiite militias connected to the Iraqi government, to the insurgency and to the violence against Sunni factions. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the CIA, told the Senate recently that the amount of Iranian-supplied materiel used against U.S. troops in Iraq "has been quite striking."

"Iran seems to be conducting a foreign policy with a sense of dangerous triumphalism," Hayden said.

The new "kill or capture" program was authorized by President Bush in a meeting of his most senior advisers last fall, along with other measures meant to curtail Iranian influence from Kabul to Beirut and, ultimately, to shake Iran's commitment to its nuclear efforts. Tehran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, but the United States and other nations say it is aimed at developing weapons.

The administration's plans contain five "theaters of interest," as one senior official put it, with military, intelligence, political and diplomatic strategies designed to target Iranian interests across the Middle East.

The White House has authorized a widening of what is known inside the intelligence community as the "Blue Game Matrix" -- a list of approved operations that can be carried out against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. And U.S. officials are preparing international sanctions against Tehran for holding several dozen al-Qaeda fighters who fled across the Afghan border in late 2001. They plan more aggressive moves to disrupt Tehran's funding of the radical Palestinian group Hamas and to undermine Iranian interests among Shiites in western Afghanistan.

In Iraq, U.S. troops now have the authority to target any member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, as well as officers of its intelligence services believed to be working with Iraqi militias. The policy does not extend to Iranian civilians or diplomats. Though U.S. forces are not known to have used lethal force against any Iranian to date, Bush administration officials have been urging top military commanders to exercise the authority.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

U.S. eyes heat-beaming weapon by 2010�|�US News�|�Reuters.com

U.S. eyes heat-beaming weapon by 2010�|�US News�|�Reuters.com

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Georgia (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department on Wednesday unveiled what it called a revolutionary heat-beaming weapon that could be used to control mobs or repel foes in conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The so-called Active Denial System causes an intense burning sensation causing people to run for cover, but no lasting harm, officials said.

"This is a breakthrough technology that's going to give our forces a capability they don't now have," Theodore Barna, an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for advanced systems and concepts, told Reuters. "We expect the services to add it to their tool kit. And that could happen as early as 2010."
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The weapon, mounted on a Humvee, uses a large rectangular dish antenna to direct an invisible beam toward a target. It includes a high-voltage power unit and beam-generating equipment and is effective at more than 500 meters.

Existing counter-personnel systems designed not to kill -- including bean bag munitions and rubber bullets -- work at little more than "rock-throwing distances," said Marine Col. Kirk Hymes, director of the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

In increasingly complex military operations, the technology provided a much-needed alternative to just going from "shouting to shooting," said Hymes, who is responsible for the weapon's five-year, $60 million advanced development.

Variations of the system could help in peacetime and wartime missions, including crowd control and mob dispersal, checkpoint security and port protection, officials said. It could also help in conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.

China's Hu vows to "purify" Internet�|�Tech&Sci�|�Technology�|�Reuters.com

China's Hu vows to "purify" Internet�|�Tech&Sci�|�Technology�|�Reuters.com:

"BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Jintao has vowed to 'purify' the Internet, state media reported on Wednesday, describing a top-level meeting that discussed ways to master the country's sprawling, unruly online population.

Hu made the comments as the ruling party's Politburo -- its 24-member leading council -- was studying China's Internet, which claimed 137 million registered users at the end of 2006.

Hu, a strait-laced communist with little sympathy for cultural relaxation, did not directly mention censorship.

But he made it clear that the Communist Party was looking to ensure it keeps control of China's Internet users, often more interested in salacious pictures, bloodthirsty games and political scandal than Marxist lessons.

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The party had to 'strengthen administration and development of our country's Internet culture', Hu told the meeting on Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

'Maintain the initiative in opinion on the Internet and raise the level of guidance online,' he said. 'We must promote civilized running and use of the Internet and purify the Internet environment.'

In 2006, China's Internet users grew by 26 million, or 23.4 percent, year on year, to reach 10.5 percent of the total population, the China Internet Network Information Center said on Tuesday.

The vast majority of those users have no access to overseas Chinese Web sites offering uncensored opinion and news critical of the ruling party. But even in heavily monitored China, news of official misdeeds and dissident opinion has been able to travel through online bulletin boards and blogs."

Wired News: Military Builds Robotic Insects

Wired News: Military Builds Robotic Insects: "If you feel something crawling on your neck, it might be a wasp or a bee. Or it might be something much more dangerous.

Israel is developing a robot the size of a hornet to attack terrorists. And although the prototype will not fly for three years, killer Micro Air Vehicles, or MAVs, are much closer than that.

British Special Forces already use 6-inch MAV aircraft called WASPs for reconnaissance in Afghanistan. The $3,000 WASP is operated with a Gameboy-style controller and is nearly silent, so it can get very close without being detected. A new development will reportedly see the WASP fitted with a C4 explosive warhead for kamikaze attacks on snipers. One newspaper dubbed it 'The Talibanator.'"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Meet me in my avatar's office | CNET News.com

Meet me in my avatar's office | CNET News.com

Welcome to IBM Island

Last April, the company started buying just a few islands in Second Life, and then developing those internally. In the summer, it launched its Forbidden City and Wimbledon islands, along with a digital community called 3D Jam, where employees could "jam" about ideas with family, partners or co-workers.

In October, IBM unveiled its "Global Connections," giving IBMers a virtual island where they can interact with company alumni. A month later, it bought 12 islands, including one that's become a virtual test store for Circuit City. The store gives shoppers a lounge-like experience of the retailer, with displays for the iPod and couches for sitting and gauging the right proportions of a new TV. Shoppers' avatars can then click to buy products at Circuit City's real online store.

This month, IBM introduced a prototype store for Sears, as well as its own island, Lotussphere, where clients can interact with IBM employees about Lotus software. And next week, it will take the wraps off its Australian Open island, where onlookers can watch the trajectories of balls hit in the actual sporting event or choose to see the game from the vantage point of an individual player, according to IBM.

Why is IBM so invested in seeing the virtual world succeed? Because, McDavid said, the company wants to attract and keep talented employees.

A generation of kids reared in virtual worlds like Second Life or MTV's Laguna Beach are eventually bound for a work force that will need to cater to their experiences by creating virtual worlds for the corporate intranet.

Economically, too, the world is migrating to a services economy, McDavid said, and it's all about people working together in these open, collaborative ways.

"The turning point has to do with the balance between individual and social interests within capitalism," he said. "It is the swing of the pendulum from the extreme individual...to giving greater attention to collective well-being."

The postwar photographs that British authorities tried to keep hidden | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

The postwar photographs that British authorities tried to keep hidden | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

· Treatment of suspected communists revealed
· Four court martialled after police inspector's inquiry

Ian Cobain
Monday April 3, 2006
The Guardian

Archive pictures of German prisoners held by the British following the second world war
Archive pictures of German prisoners held by the British following the second world war. Photographs: Martin Argles


For almost 60 years, the evidence of Britain's clandestine torture programme in postwar Germany has lain hidden in the government's files. Harrowing photographs of young men who had survived being systematically starved, as well as beaten, deprived of sleep and exposed to extreme cold, were considered too shocking to be seen.

As one minister of the day wrote, as few people as possible should be aware that British authorities had treated prisoners "in a manner reminiscent of the German concentration camps".

Many other photographs known to have been taken have vanished from the archives, and even this year some government officials were arguing that none should be published.

The pictures show suspected communists who were tortured in an attempt to gather information about Soviet military intentions and intelligence methods at a time when some British officials were convinced that a third world war was only months away.

Article continues
Others interrogated at the same prison, at Bad Nenndorf, near Hanover, included Nazis, prominent German industrialists of the Hitler era, and former members of the SS.

At least two men suspected of being communists were starved to death, at least one was beaten to death, others suffered serious illness or injuries, and many lost toes to frostbite.

The appalling treatment of the 372 men and 44 women who were interrogated at Bad Nenndorf between 1945 and 1947 are detailed in a report by a Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Tom Hayward. He had been called in by senior army officers to investigate the mistreatment of inmates, partly as a result of the evidence provided by these photographs.

Insp Hayward's report remained secret until last December, when the Guardian secured its release under the Freedom of Information Act. The photographs seen here were removed before the Foreign Office released the report, apparently because the Ministry of Defence did not wish them to be published. That decision was reversed last week, following an appeal by the Guardian.

Monday, January 22, 2007

In Douglass Tribute, Slave Folklore and Fact Collide - New York Times

In Douglass Tribute, Slave Folklore and Fact Collide - New York Times:

"At the northwest corner of Central Park, construction is under way on Frederick Douglass Circle, a $15.5 million project honoring the escaped slave who became a world-renowned orator and abolitionist.

Beneath an eight-foot-tall sculpture of Douglass, the plans call for a huge quilt in granite, an array of squares, a symbol in each, supposedly part of a secret code sewn into family quilts and used along the Underground Railroad to aid slaves. Two plaques would explain this.

The only problem: According to many prominent historians, the secret code — the subject of a popular book that has been featured on no less a cultural touchstone than “The Oprah Winfrey Show” — never existed. And now the city is reconsidering the inclusion of the plaques, so as not to “publicize spurious history,” Kate D. Levin, the city’s commissioner of cultural affairs, said yesterday.

The plaques may go, but they have spawned an energetic debate about folklore versus fact, and who decides what becomes the lasting historical record.

The memorial’s link between Douglass, who escaped slavery from Baltimore at age 20, and the coded designs has puzzled historians. But what particularly raised the historians’ ire were the two plaques, one naming the code’s symbols and the other explaining that they were used “to indicate the location of safe houses, escape routes and to convey other information vital to a slave’s escape and survival.”

It’s “a myth, bordering on a hoax,” said David Blight, a Yale University historian who has written a book about Douglass and edited his autobiography. “To permanently associate Douglass’s life with this story instead of great, real stories is unfortunate at best.”"

World Tribune.com -- Strategist: Iran believes it could destroy Israel with a single nuke

World Tribune.com -- Strategist: Iran believes it could destroy Israel with a single nuke

JERUSALEM — Iran's nuclear program seeks first-strike capability against Israel, a leading strategist said.

The Israeli strategist and former intelligence officer said Iran believes it could destroy the Jewish state with one nuclear weapon.

"Iranians believe that it holds, may hold, a first strike capability against Israel once it has a nuclear capability," said Shmuel Bar, director of studies at the Institute of Police and Strategy.

Dr. Shmuel Bar, director of studies at the Institute of Policy and Strategy in Herzliya, Israel. Herzliyaconference.org
Iran believes "that Israel is a one-bomb country, one bomb from the point-of-view of the receiving side; that the U.S. would not intervene against Iran under such conditions; and all of that with apocalyptic zeal may result in actual use of nuclear weapons," he said.

Bar, who for years worked in the Israeli intelligence community, told a conference on Jan. 9 that Iran was prepared to destroy Muslim cities as the price for firing nuclear missiles toward Israel. He said the ruling Islamic clergy would support a nuclear attack on Israel even at the risk of killing millions of Palestinian Muslims.

"They're developing weapons both as deterrents and that part of the Iranian regime — the more revolutionary part — has all of the components for developing a doctrine of use of nuclear weapons, as opposed to adoption of using nuclear weapons as deterrents," Bar said. "I think that it's a religious background which brings them to this sort of a doctrine."

Bar said Iran has studied the U.S. wars against the former Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. The chief Iranian lesson was that only nuclear weapons could deter a U.S. attack.

Friday, January 19, 2007

NextPath - 13 Things I Wish I Learned in College

NextPath - 13 Things I Wish I Learned in College

13 Things I Wish I Learned In College

College is a great experience that millions of students look forward to every year. I myself have been in college for a total of 6 years and have obtained a B.A. in communications as well as a MBA. After attending college I started working and realized that college does not prepare you for the real world. Here are some of the things that I should have learned in college so I would have been more prepared for my job after college.

1. Getting to the Point – Most of the term papers I did in college were long and had minimal requirements. The last thing my boss wants to read is a 10 page report that could have been one paragraph long. Professors need to teach students to get to the point and not push for lengthy essays.


2. Making Proper Presentations – I have made a lot of presentations in college, but the professors did not show me how to successfully communicate my ideas. Having cheesy designed slides may have worked well in college, but in the corporate world simple, effective designs are preferred. Now I have learned that slides with less text and larger font sizes are much more effective then slides with lots of text and small font sizes.


3. Working on a Team – Most of my college career was made up of reading, studying, test taking and paper writing. Most of which I did alone. I was graded on how well I performed, not on how well I performed on a team. But now, my boss wants to see how well I can cooperate with my co-workers, how well, WE can complete projects. So, being diplomatic and being open minded to team-member’s ideas has become second-practice. It’s important to understand that every member of a team brings their own skill set and perspective to a project.


4. Writing a Resume – It seems like one of the biggest college and post college misnomers concerns “writing a resume.” College seminars that help students prepare for the great “job hunt,” should teach students how to create a basic resume template and then custom tailor it to fit specific job requirements. I’ve found that resumes that address the specific skills associated with job or company work best. Research the company you are interested in working for. Try to find how your interests, skills or knowledge directly applies to that company and that position. Then sell it on one page. There is no reason you can’t have more that one resume.


5. Interviewing – I spent some ample time in college talking to my professors in an attempt to highlight my value in class, but dropping knowledge to a professor in order to increase my grade and proving that I am the best candidate for a job are two very different things. First off, be prepared to be judged, by how you are dressed, how well you answer questions and in “stress interviews” where there are multiple people interviewing you at once, on how well you keep your cool. Again, research the company before you go on your interview, go ahead and Google the name of the person who is interviewing you, find out as much as you can before you step into that room. I’ve also found it helpful to take about an hour the day before the interview and imagine what questions you might be asked and how you would respond to them. This gets your brain working in the right direction.

Click to the article to read the rest of the items. Good stuff.

SAN FRANCISCO / SPIDER SHIP ON THE BAY / El Cerrito firm unveils the Proteus, 'a new class of vessel'


SAN FRANCISCO / SPIDER SHIP ON THE BAY / El Cerrito firm unveils the Proteus, 'a new class of vessel'

The strangest vessel made its formal premiere Thursday on San Francisco Bay, and it was a sight to see: It looked like a spider, wiggled over the waves like a porpoise, and was fast as the wind.

It is named the Proteus, after a Greek god of the sea, and is the first of what might be a long line of wave adaptive modular vessels -- WAM-V for short -- developed by Ugo Conti, an engineer and inventor. Conti calls it "the prototype of a new class of vessel."

Using technology developed by Conti's El Cerrito Marine Advanced Research Inc., the WAM-V is "a new class of watercraft ... that delivers a radically new seagoing experience." It has twin hulls, like a catamaran, connected to each other and a control cabin by four metal legs. The legs ride on titanium springs -- like shock absorbers -- that allow the WAM-V to adjust to the surface of the water -- to flex like knees.

It has many uses, Conti says. "It can go many thousands of miles to deliver something." It can also enter shallow lagoons in faraway places, help scientists, would be useful in search and rescue operations, and even has some military applications.

The Proteus is 100 feet long, 50 feet between the outsides of the twin hulls, and is powered by two 355 horsepower Cummins marine diesels. It displaces 12 tons fully loaded. Fuel is stored in the flexible pontoons, and the vessel, Conti says, has a range of thousands of miles.

It can carry 2 tons of cargo, and can be operated by a crew of two.

The cabin, which sleeps four, can be lowered into the water -- "like a helicopter landing," Conti said -- and sail off on its own.

Conti would not say how much the prototype had cost. "We are still adding that up," said Isabella Conti, the inventor's wife and a vice president of Marine Advanced Research. The couple would also not disclose the vessel's speed, pending full sea trials. "It can go faster than I can run," said Dave Hitz, who said he has invested in the company.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Rule by decree passed for Chavez

BBC NEWS | Americas | Rule by decree passed for Chavez:

"Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants 'revolutionary laws' to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.

He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve.

Mr Chavez began his third term in office last week after a landslide election victory in December."

All the lefties in the U.S. are defending this guy, as in "the people of Venezuela want Chavez", ignoring that he stole the elections, and that he is suppressing dissent, closing newspapers and hounding anyone who disagrees, just the stuff they accuse Bush of doing. But if Chavez actually does it, in the real world, he's a hero. Because he's a lefty. They don't really care about right and wrong, they just want total power. Anything they do to get it is right, anything that slows them down is wrong.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Rule by decree passed for Chavez

BBC NEWS | Americas | Rule by decree passed for Chavez:

"Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants 'revolutionary laws' to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.

He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve.

Mr Chavez began his third term in office last week after a landslide election victory in December."

All the lefties in the U.S. are defending this guy, as in "the people of Venezuela want Chavez", ignoring that he stole the elections, and that he is suppressing dissent, closing newspapers and hounding anyone who disagrees, just the stuff they accuse Bush of doing. But if Chavez actually does it, in the real world, he's a hero. Because he's a lefty. They don't really care about right and wrong, they just want total power. Anything they do to get it is right, anything that slows them down is wrong.

Independent Online Edition > Folic Acid improves memory

Independent Online Edition > Health Medical

People who took high dose supplements of folic acid did significantly better in tests of memory and cognitive performance than those given a placebo, researchers report.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

8 lottery winners who lost their millions - MSN Money

8 lottery winners who lost their millions - MSN Money

Having piles of cash only compounds problems for some people. Here are sad tales of foolishness, hit men, greedy relatives and dreams dashed.
:

"For a lot of people, winning the lottery is the American dream. But for many lottery winners, the reality is more like a nightmare.

'Winning the lottery isn't always what it's cracked up to be,' says Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey lottery not just once, but twice (1985, 1986), to the tune of $5.4 million. Today the money is all gone and Adams lives in a trailer.

'I won the American dream but I lost it, too. It was a very hard fall. It's called rock bottom,' says Adams.

'Everybody wanted my money. Everybody had their hand out. I never learned one simple word in the English language -- 'No.' I wish I had the chance to do it all over again. I'd be much smarter about it now,' says Adams, who also lost money at the slot machines in Atlantic City.

'I was a big-time gambler,' admits Adams. 'I didn't drop a million dollars, but it was a lot of money. I made mistakes, some I regret, some I don't. I'm human. I can't go back now so I just go forward, one step at a time.'"

CTV.ca | Small molecule offers hope for cancer treatment

CTV.ca | Small molecule offers hope for cancer treatment

A small, non-toxic molecule may soon be available as an inexpensive treatment for many forms of cancer, including lung, breast and brain tumours, say University of Alberta researchers.

But there's a catch: the drug isn't patented, and pharmaceutical companies may not be interested in funding further research if the treatment won't make them a profit.

In findings that "astounded" the researchers, the molecule known as DCA was shown to shrink lung, breast and brain tumours in both animal and human tissue experiments.

"You typically get this eureka type of feeling. It's the most exciting thing a scientist can get," Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, a professor at the University of Alberta department of medicine and a key study author, told CTV News.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Cancer Cell.

The molecule appears to repair the damage that cancer cells cause to mitochondria, the units that convert food into energy.

"Cancer cells actively suppress their mitochondria, which alters their metabolism, and this appears to offer cancer cells a significant advantage in growth compared to normal cells, as well as protection from many standard chemotherapies," Michelakis said in a written statement.

As mitochondria regulate cell death, cancer cells can resist being killed off.

For years, DCA -- or dichloroacetate -- has been used to treat children with inborn errors of metabolism due to mitochondrial diseases.

Until recently, researchers believed damage to mitochondria in cancer cells was permanent.

But Michelakis questioned this theory and began testing DCA, which activates a critical enzyme, as a way to "revive" cancer-affected mitochondria.

He says one of the most exciting things about this compound is that it might be able to treat many different forms of cancer because they all suppress mitochondrial function.

Iraq Announces Crackdown On Mahdi Army, 400 Fighters For Muqtada Al-Sadr Arrested; Iraq PM Calls For Better Weapons, Equipment - CBS News

Iraq Announces Crackdown On Mahdi Army, 400 Fighters For Muqtada Al-Sadr Arrested; Iraq PM Calls For Better Weapons, Equipment - CBS News

(CBS/AP) Apparently seeking to calm U.S. fears that he will not go after militia gunmen loyal to one of his key political backers, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said 400 fighters from the Mahdi Army had been arrested over the past several weeks.

In Baghdad on Thursday, bombers and gunmen killed at least 19 more people in a series of attacks in the pre-noon hours as the capital faces a surge in violence ahead of a planned U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown.

It was the first time the Shiite prime minister has specifically detailed any arrests of figures from the Mahdi Army militia that is loyal to his key backer, the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Many of the militiamen are believed responsible for a majority of the sectarian violence in Baghdad over the past year.

Yassin Majid, a senior al-Maliki adviser, said reports that dozens of senior militia leaders had been detained were incorrect.

A Baghdad Mahdi Army commander, meanwhile, said U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a major campaign Tuesday in Um al-Maalef, a Shiite neighborhood in south Baghdad.

"They detained every man who was able to carry weapons. We heard from our people in the area that about 400 people were detained," said the militia commander on condition of anonymity because senior figures in the group are not permitted to give their names.

He said that in December U.S. troops had killed one of the Mahdi Army's top commanders, known as Abu al-Sudour, in Sadr City.

Wired News: Fantastic Voyage: Departure 2009

Wired News: Fantastic Voyage: Departure 2009:

"An international team of scientists is developing what they say will be the world's first microrobot -- as wide as two human hairs -- that can swim through the arteries and digestive system.

The scientists are designing the 250-micron device to transmit images and deliver microscopic payloads to parts of the body outside the reach of existing catheter technology.

It will also perform minimally invasive microsurgeries, said James Friend of the Micro/Nanophysics Research Laboratory at Australia's Monash University, who leads the team. The researchers hope the device will reduce the risks normally associated with delicate surgical procedures.

While others have tried and failed to create microrobots for arterial travel, Friend believes his team will succeed because they are the first to exploit piezoelectric materials -- crystals that create an electric charge when mechanically stressed -- in their micromotor design.

'People have tried various techniques, including electromagnetic motors,' Friend said. 'But at this scale, electromagnetic motors become impractical because the magnetic fields become so weak. No one has taken the trouble to build piezoelectric motors at the same scales, for this kind of application.'"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Daily Tribune : Life in prison for having sex with mannequins!

Daily Tribune : :

"History includes at least six similar convictions

FERNDALE-- A Detroit man with a record of breaking store windows to satisfy a fetish for female mannequins faces up to life in prison if convicted on the latest charge against him.

Advertisement
Ronald A. Dotson, 39, is charged with attempted breaking and entering after police say he broke a display window Oct. 9 at a cleaning supply store in a failed effort to get at a female mannequin dressed in a black-and-white French maid's outfit.

Dotson's criminal history includes at least six breaking and entering convictions involving female mannequins over the past 13 years and stints in state prison.

Ferndale 43rd District Judge Joseph Longo on Thursday found Dotson competent to stand trial after he was examined by state doctors who issued a report to the court.

Dotson was ordered to stand trial in circuit court following a preliminary examination on the evidence against him in Ferndale court on Thursday.

The suspect, who is 5-feet-4, appeared in court in a blue jail uniform with his hands cuffed in front of him.

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Josh Marcum said Dotson is charged as a habitual offender because of his past convictions and faces up to life imprisonment if found guilty.

'This looks like something where some serious treatment would be in order in a prison setting,' Marcum said.

However, defense attorney Edward Cohn said he talked to a doctor at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti where Dotson was examined.

'She told me she has no idea if there is treatment available,' Cohn said. 'We don't know if the Michigan Department of Corrections has any treatment.'

Dotson had been paroled from prison only six days before he was arrested outside the Crandall Worthington clean supply store, 21208 Woodward, about 9 p.m.

Ferndale officer Casey O'Loughlin testified Thursday that Dotson was stopped about 10 feet away from the store wearing a short sleeve shirt and cotton work gloves after the alarm sounded.

A glass display window was shattered. O'Loughlin said he recognized Dotson.

'In July 2000 there was an alarm at a store on West Nine Mile,' O'Loughlin said. 'We arrested Mr. Dotson for stealing a mannequin out of a store front.'

Dotson was first convicted in Ferndale for breaking a store window in pursuit of female mannequins in 1993. Police say they arrested him after he had stolen three female mannequins from a downtown business and lined them up in an alley behind the store.

In Oak Park, Dotson was convicted of breaking and entering women's stores in 1997, 2000 and 2004, according to police. He was also convicted of a similar charge in Detroit in 1993.

Shortly before his arrest in October, Dotson had told his parole officer he was considering buying a female mannequin so he wouldn't have to commit further break-ins, Ferndale police said."

Daily Tribune : Life in prison for having sex with mannequins!

Daily Tribune : :

"History includes at least six similar convictions

FERNDALE-- A Detroit man with a record of breaking store windows to satisfy a fetish for female mannequins faces up to life in prison if convicted on the latest charge against him.

Advertisement
Ronald A. Dotson, 39, is charged with attempted breaking and entering after police say he broke a display window Oct. 9 at a cleaning supply store in a failed effort to get at a female mannequin dressed in a black-and-white French maid's outfit.

Dotson's criminal history includes at least six breaking and entering convictions involving female mannequins over the past 13 years and stints in state prison.

Ferndale 43rd District Judge Joseph Longo on Thursday found Dotson competent to stand trial after he was examined by state doctors who issued a report to the court.

Dotson was ordered to stand trial in circuit court following a preliminary examination on the evidence against him in Ferndale court on Thursday.

The suspect, who is 5-feet-4, appeared in court in a blue jail uniform with his hands cuffed in front of him.

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Josh Marcum said Dotson is charged as a habitual offender because of his past convictions and faces up to life imprisonment if found guilty.

'This looks like something where some serious treatment would be in order in a prison setting,' Marcum said.

However, defense attorney Edward Cohn said he talked to a doctor at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti where Dotson was examined.

'She told me she has no idea if there is treatment available,' Cohn said. 'We don't know if the Michigan Department of Corrections has any treatment.'

Dotson had been paroled from prison only six days before he was arrested outside the Crandall Worthington clean supply store, 21208 Woodward, about 9 p.m.

Ferndale officer Casey O'Loughlin testified Thursday that Dotson was stopped about 10 feet away from the store wearing a short sleeve shirt and cotton work gloves after the alarm sounded.

A glass display window was shattered. O'Loughlin said he recognized Dotson.

'In July 2000 there was an alarm at a store on West Nine Mile,' O'Loughlin said. 'We arrested Mr. Dotson for stealing a mannequin out of a store front.'

Dotson was first convicted in Ferndale for breaking a store window in pursuit of female mannequins in 1993. Police say they arrested him after he had stolen three female mannequins from a downtown business and lined them up in an alley behind the store.

In Oak Park, Dotson was convicted of breaking and entering women's stores in 1997, 2000 and 2004, according to police. He was also convicted of a similar charge in Detroit in 1993.

Shortly before his arrest in October, Dotson had told his parole officer he was considering buying a female mannequin so he wouldn't have to commit further break-ins, Ferndale police said."

Beauty is in the eye of your friends - being-human - 17 January 2007 - New Scientist

Beauty is in the eye of your friends - being-human - 17 January 2007 - New Scientist:

"It is a classic image: a group of young women sighing over the latest heartthrob. But do they all really share identical taste for, say, Brad Pitt, or that cute guy in physics class? A new study suggests that, in fact, women will look more favourably on the men that other women find attractive.

Female guppies, quail and finches tend to mate with males that look like the males they have seen other females paired with. Such “mate choice copying” can pay off. If it is difficult to choose the best mating material, or takes a lot of time and energy, it makes sense to go with what works for the other girls.

Yet although human mate selection suffers just such difficulties, there has been little evidence that women do this, until now.

Ben Jones at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and colleagues, showed 28 men and 28 women pairs of male faces and asked them to rate their attractiveness. The photos had been already been rated by 40 women as of about equal attractiveness."

The University of Reading - Cybernetics at Reading - News

The University of Reading - Cybernetics at Reading - News:

"A new robot at the University of Reading has been rated as suitable for adults only by the University's Ethics and Research Committee. The K-28 robot, named Morgui (mandarin Chinese for Magic (Mor) Ghost (Gui)), consists of a rapid action robot head which has been specially designed as a test bed for multi-sensor integration. Although it has 5 senses, only two of these, vision and audio, are human equivalents, whilst the remainder, radar, infra-red and ultrasonics are extrasensory as far as humans are concerned.

Professor Kevin Warwick of the University's Cybernetics Department said 'We want to investigate how people react when they first encounter 'Mo', as we lovingly like to call the robot. Through one of Mo's eyes he can watch peoples' responses to him following them around. It appears this is not deemed to be acceptable for Under 18 year olds without prior consent from their legal guardian. This presents us with a big problem as we cannot demonstrate Mo in action either to visitors or potential students. In fact the whole of our robotics lab is now officially a no-go area for non-adults'.

Morgui is being used in research as a test bed for integrating different sensory input to provide an overall control strategy for robot behaviour."

Click to see the pic. Looks like the terminator, only scarier. Guess it freaks out the kiddies when it follows their movements with its eyes.

Does High-Fructose Corn Syrup Have to Be in�Everything? by Wilton D. Alston

Does High-Fructose Corn Syrup Have to Be in Everything? by Wilton D. Alston

The Usual Suspect – Again

Of course the culprit for the presence of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in all sweetened foods in the U.S. is the state. The mechanism is the incredibly high tariff on sugar produced in other countries. The U.S. government would rather force manufacturers to use inferior and hazardous high fructose corn syrup, which can be created from corn – a crop grown in the U.S. – than allow them to use more natural sugar from places that seem rather obvious. I don’t know about you, but when I think of sugar, I think of sugar cane in South America, but when the USDA thinks of sugar, apparently they think of cornfields in Nebraska!

But Really, Who Cares?

What if corn sweetener is just as good as sugar from cane in South America? Wouldn’t it make sense to support our "local" producers? Well, no, not with legislation. If corn sweetener were really better than cane sugar, legislation artificially inflating our price for cane sugar would not be needed. Read that sentence again, because that is about the size of it. Whenever the state gets involved to force the market to take a particular path it is only because the path chosen by the state would not otherwise be taken by anyone intelligent enough to decide on his own. Period.

On the other hand, what if corn sweetener is not just as good as sugar from cane? Well, Houston, then we have a problem! According to experts such as Mehmet Oz and Michael Roisen, high-fructose corn syrup is a horrible sweetener. In their landmark book, "You: The Owner’s Manual…," they state:

"One of the biggest evil influences on our diet is the presence of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sugar substitute that itself is a sugar found in soft drinks and many other sweet, processed foods. The problem is that HCFS inhibits leptin secretion, so you never get the message that you’re full. And it never shuts off gherin, so, even though you have food in your stomach, you constantly get the message that you’re hungry." (See page 192.)

With apologies to the Church Lady, "Well, isn’t that special?" So the state forces us to consume a sweetener that’s obviously not as good for us, just so their constituents can sell more, make more money, and vote en bloc for the legislator who visits this evil on the rest of us. Sounds like yet another example of misplaced incentives.

Other Sweeteners – Same Problem

Those of us who are "into" health know all about stevia. This is a very powerful natural sweetener, extracted from South American plants much as sugar is extracted from cane. One can find stevia in health food stores, but it is not allowed as an ingredient in processed foods. Why not? The typical statist would say "because it is not shown to be proven safe and effective" which is FDA-speak for "because we didn’t say you could use it." Call me a conspiracy realist, but I doubt that "safe and effective" had much to do with the FDA deciding to ban stevia. Nothing drives this point home better than this little tidbit: the FDA initially labeled stevia as an "unsafe food additive" after an anonymous complaint. (Yes, an anonymous complaint!) You simply cannot make this stuff up.

But stevia has been used by other cultures for thousands of years with no ill effects. Yes, thousands of years. If it’s so dangerous, why are we in the U.S. alone on Earth in recognizing the danger? In Japan the government will not allow artificial sweeteners in soft drinks, so they use stevia instead. In fact, it accounts for 40% of the Japanese sweetener market. In the U.S. the government won’t allow stevia, but we get a heaping helping of Aspartame, Sucralose, and all manner of other chemical junk. Where is the logic?

Solar power eliminates utility bills in U.S. home�|�Tech&Sci�|�Technology�|�Reuters.com

Solar power eliminates utility bills in U.S. home Reuters.com:

"EAST AMWELL, New Jersey (Reuters) - Michael Strizki heats and cools his house year-round and runs a full range of appliances including such power-guzzlers as a hot tub and a wide-screen TV without paying a penny in utility bills.

His conventional-looking family home in the pinewoods of western New Jersey is the first in the United States to show that a combination of solar and hydrogen power can generate all the electricity needed for a home.

The Hopewell Project, named for a nearby town, comes at a time of increasing concern over U.S. energy security and worries over the effects of burning fossil fuels on the climate.

'People understand that climate change is a big concern but they don't know what they can do about it,' said Gian-Paolo Caminiti of Renewable Energy Associates, the commercial arm of the project. 'There's a psychological dividend in doing the right thing,' he said.

Strizki runs the 3,000-square-foot house with electricity generated by a 1,000-square-foot roof full of photovoltaic cells on a nearby building, an electrolyzer that uses the solar power to generate hydrogen from water, and a number of hydrogen tanks that store the gas until it is needed by the fuel cell."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Seattle Times: Local News: Smoking foes bring the fight to apartment buildings

The Seattle Times: Local News: Smoking foes bring the fight to apartment buildings:

"A year after a statewide smoking ban took effect at workplaces, restaurants, bars and other public places, a new battlefield over secondhand smoke is emerging: apartment buildings.

Spurred on by nonsmoking tenants and public-health leaders, more private landlords are considering restricting smoking inside their rental units. And local public-housing agencies are also looking at banning smoking in the units of some buildings.

Since the ban took effect, people have gotten used to going out in the community and not being exposed to secondhand smoke, and that's prompted some to ask, 'Why do I have to take it in my home?' says Roger Valdez, manager of the tobacco-prevention program for Public Health — Seattle & King County, which enforces the smoking ban here.

'We've been surprised by the increased level of interest to make their apartments smoke-free,' he said."

Is 'Quick' Enough? - washingtonpost.com

Is 'Quick' Enough? - washingtonpost.com

Some of the newest players in health care are rubbing doctors the wrong way.

You may know them: those small clinics at your neighborhood Wal-Mart, Target or CVS that promise quick attention for routine visits -- sore throats, minor aches and pains, flu shots -- with no appointments needed. The clinics, which go by such names as MinuteClinic, RediClinic, QuickClinic, Medpoint Express, Curaquick and MediMin, offer convenience and low price -- scarce commodities in today's medical marketplace. But while consumers are taking to the concept, physician resistance is building.

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At the MinuteClinic inside a CVS pharmacy in Potomac, Rachel Herman, 6, checks in with nurse practitioner Anne Pohnert. Rachel's sore throat is typical of problems seen at retail-based clinics, which are gaining in popularity.
At the MinuteClinic inside a CVS pharmacy in Potomac, Rachel Herman, 6, checks in with nurse practitioner Anne Pohnert. Rachel's sore throat is typical of problems seen at retail-based clinics, which are gaining in popularity. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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"The quickest, most convenient medical care is not always the best," says Caroline Van Vleck, a Washington pediatrician. Particularly, she and a growing chorus of primary care physicians contend, when it comes to children.

But even as many doctors sound the alarm, others are scrambling to adapt. Increasingly, the discussion among physicians like me is focusing on how to compete with the new clinics -- even if that means stealing a trick or two.

Not that many are convinced this trend is good for patients. Within the past six months, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both decried it.

"Convenience is not enough," the AMA lamented in a recent editorial. Comparing the mini-clinic phenomenon to kudzu -- the tree-strangling vine rampant in the South -- the AMA complained these new services are spreading too far, too fast. In a policy statement issued this fall, the AAP "opposes retail-based clinics as an appropriate source of medical care for infants, children, and adolescents and strongly discourages their use.

James Woodburn, chief medical officer of MinuteClinic, emphatically disagrees:

"We've been around for nearly seven years now . . . with almost no adverse events," he says. "We have a long track record of quality medical care," he continues, expressing pride "with our ability to provide convenient and extremely high-quality and cost-effective care."

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At the MinuteClinic inside a CVS pharmacy in Potomac, Rachel Herman, 6, checks in with nurse practitioner Anne Pohnert. Rachel's sore throat is typical of problems seen at retail-based clinics, which are gaining in popularity.
At the MinuteClinic inside a CVS pharmacy in Potomac, Rachel Herman, 6, checks in with nurse practitioner Anne Pohnert. Rachel's sore throat is typical of problems seen at retail-based clinics, which are gaining in popularity. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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Rockville parent Meredith Salamon is inclined to agree. Dropping into a MinuteClinic in a nearby CVS pharmacy last month to get flu shots for four of her five children, she says she was in and out in 15 minutes. "The cost was good, and the location was good, so it was easy and quick," she said. By contrast, she says, the family's more expensive traditional doctor "kept running out" of flu vaccine and keeps inconvenient hours.

From a business point of view, RBCs look like a success story. Five years after the first RBC was founded by a Minnesota doctor, there are now about 200 nationwide. A survey last summer by the California HealthCare Foundation projected the number will reach several thousand by the end of 2007.

Filling a Need

Fueling this growth, says Anne Pohnert, MinuteClinic's manager of operations for the Washington area, is the appeal of lower cost, speed, convenience and after-hours availability.

"Many patients would like to get in to see their primary care physician, but when they call, there is no appointment available," she says. Choosing an urgent care center or emergency facility may involve "a long wait and considerably more cost," she adds. "We believe that a visit to MinuteClinic instead of an ER on a Friday evening for a five-minute strep test is a win-win for patients and insurers trying to save time and health-care costs."

To contain costs, the typical retail clinic is a bare-bones affair, usually a small room with a few chairs, a cabinet or two and perhaps, but not always, an examining table.

On-site medical staff usually consists of a single nurse practitioner or physician assistant. A doctor is generally available for phone consults only. Prices are posted for all to see. Some typical fees in Maryland's MinuteClinics: $30 for a flu shot, $59 for a strep test, $49 to diagnose and prescribe treatment for an ear infection. Also posted prominently are ad slogans that capture the concept: "You're Sick, We're Quick," "Get Well, Stay Well -- Fast," "On the spot relief," "Great Care, Fast, and Fair."

MinuteClinic, which began operating here two years ago, now runs a dozen clinics in Maryland and 146 nationally, making it the industry leader. In the Washington area, it has recorded about 80,000 patient visits, according to its chief executive, Michael Howe. (CVS acquired MinuteClinic in September and operates it as a wholly owned subsidiary.)

Even their critics concede the clinics are tapping public frustration with traditional delivery of health care.

"The retail clinics are sending physicians a message that our current model of care is not always easy to access," says Rick Kellerman, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Robo-builder threatens the brickie - Newspaper Edition - Times Online

Robo-builder threatens the brickie - Newspaper Edition - Times Online:

"Robo-builder threatens the brickie
Robert Booth
IS THE writing on the wall for the brickie? Engineers are racing to unveil the world’s first robot capable of building a house at the touch of a button.

The first prototype — a watertight shell of a two-storey house built in 24 hours without a single builder on site — will be erected in California before April.

A rival design, being pioneered in the East Midlands, with �1.2m of government funding, will include sunken baths, fireplaces and cornices. There are even plans for robots to supplant painters and decorators by spraying colourful frescoes at an affordable price.

By building almost an entire house from just two materials — concrete and gypsum — the robots will eliminate the need for dozens of traditional components, including floorboards, wooden window frames and possibly even wallpaper. It may eventually be possible to use specially treated gypsum instead of glass window panes.

Engineers on both projects say the robots will not only cut costs and avoid human delays but liberate the normal family homes from the conventional designs of pitched roofs, right-angled walls and rectangular windows.

“The architectural options will explode,” predicted Dr Behrokh Khoshnevis at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who will soon unleash his $1.5m (�940,000) robot. “We will be able to build curves and domes as easily as straight walls.

[...]

It involves computer-controlled robotic nozzles which pipe quick-drying liquid gypsum and concrete to form walls, floors and roofs.

Inspired by the inkjet printer, the technology goes far beyond the techniques already used for prefabricated homes. “This will remove all the limitations of traditional building,” said Hugh Whitehead of the architecture firm Foster & Partners, which designed the “Gherkin” skyscraper in London and is producing designs for the Loughborough team. “Anything you can dream you can build.”

The robots are rigged to a metal frame, enabling them to shuttle in three dimensions and assemble the structure of the house layer by layer. The sole foreman on site operates a computer programmed with the designer’s plans.

The researchers in Los Angeles claim their robot will be able to build the shell of a house in 24 hours. “Compared to a conventional house, the speed of construction will be increased 200-fold and the building costs will be reduced to a fifth of what they are today,” said Khoshnevis.

The rival British system is likely to take at least a week but will include more sophisticated design features, with the computer’s nozzle weaving in ducts for water pipes, electrical wiring and ventilation within the panels of gypsum or concrete. "

Saturday, January 13, 2007

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State :: $300 parking permit OKd for realty agents, others

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State :: $300 parking permit OKd for realty agents, others

Chicago aldermen held their noses Wednesday and expanded a residential permit parking program that has spread like wildfire -- creating a $300-a-year parking permit for real estate agents, social workers and home health care providers.
[...]

But the changes were not enough to satisfy a parade of aldermen who say Chicago "created a monster" when it established residential permit parking 27 years ago -- and that the new permit will make it worse.

The 44-4 vote came only after Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th) informed aldermen they had no choice. If they failed to approve the new permit, it would blow a $2.4 million hole in Daley's 2007 budget.

"I don't want to institute an elitist system that gives real estate brokers or any other business people [who] make lots of money [the right] to park anywhere. I don't want anybody having their windows broken -- because that's what's going to happen with their fancy cars being parked in my ward," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th).

Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) said it's time a parking-starved city that has become addicted to residential permit parking go cold turkey.

Daley tried to reduce the number of residential permit parking zones in 1998, only to back off after a City Council rebellion. That's why he had little sympathy for the aldermanic complaints.

"Residential permit parking came in through the aldermen -- not through the executive branch. We had nothing to do with this," the mayor said.

Over the years, residential permit parking has become the catchall solution to Chicago's parking crunch.

From June 2005 until May 2006, the city issued 101,713 permits. The annual fee is $25.

The zones got their start in 1979 on the streets surrounding Northeastern Illinois University. There are now 1,302 residential permit parking zones in the city.


I find permit parking to be absolutely infuriating. Stupid. Why should I have to pay to park in front of my own house? I grew up in a city where parking was free- what happened? Has the city made new parking spots, or improved existing ones? No, the city hasn't done a single thing but print stickers. If you park in a permit parking area without a sticker, that's a $50 dollar ticket. So, the city makes money off of permit parking tickets- so shouldn't the stickers be free to residents? They have to make money on both ends too?

But here's the part that bothers me the most. Ok, follow the logic here. I have permit parking on my street, let's say you do to. Let's say every street in Chicago has permit parking. Everyone has a place to park when they go home after work, great! Now I want to get in my car and drive somewhere- not so fast! You need a permit to park here, and there, and everywhere. So what, you just turn your car around and drive home? I guess you can park at the grocery store, or home depot- they have parking lots. But what about anywhere else? And if you can't take your car to new places and park it, why even have a stupid car? Just to park in front of your own house?

Equal Cheers for Boys and Girls Draw Some Boos - New York Times

Equal Cheers for Boys and Girls Draw Some Boos - New York Times

WHITNEY POINT, N.Y. — Thirty girls signed up for the cheerleading squad this winter at Whitney Point High School in upstate New York. But upon learning they would be waving their pompoms for the girls’ basketball team as well as the boys’, more than half of the aspiring cheerleaders dropped out.

The eight remaining cheerleaders now awkwardly adjust their routines for whichever team is playing here on the home court — “Hands Up You Guys” becomes “Hands Up You Girls”— to comply with a new ruling from federal education officials interpreting Title IX, the law intended to guarantee gender equality in student sports.

“It feels funny when we do it,” said Amanda Cummings, 15, the cheerleading co-captain, who forgot the name of a female basketball player mid-cheer last month.

Whitney Point is one of 14 high schools in the Binghamton area that began sending cheerleaders to girls’ games in late November, after the mother of a female basketball player in Johnson City, N.Y., filed a discrimination complaint with the United States Department of Education. She said the lack of official sideline support made the girls seem like second-string, and violated Title IX’s promise of equal playing fields for both sexes.

But the ruling has left many people here and across the New York region booing, as dozens of schools have chosen to stop sending cheerleaders to away games, as part of an effort to squeeze all the home girls’ games into the cheerleading schedule.

Boys’ basketball boosters say something is missing in the stands at away games, cheerleaders resent not being able to meet their rivals on the road, and even female basketball players being hurrahed are unhappy.

In Johnson City, students and parents say they have accepted the change even as they question the need for it.

[...]

But, as the New York State Public High School Athletic Association warned in a letter to its 768 members in November, the education department determined that cheerleaders should be provided “regardless of whether the girls’ basketball teams wanted and/or asked for” them.

The ruling followed a similar one in September in the Philadelphia suburbs, and comes as high schools nationwide are redefining the role of cheerleaders in response to parental and legal pressures as well as growing sensitivity to sexism among athletic directors, especially as more women step into those roles.

Federal education officials would not specify how many Title IX complaints concerning cheerleading the Office for Civil Rights is investigating. But a spokesman said the department received 64 complaints nationwide last year concerning unequal levels of publicity given to girls’ and boys’ teams — which includes the issue of cheerleading — most from New York state. That compares with a total of 28 such complaints over the previous four years.

In September, the Prince George’s County, Md., public schools agreed to provide publicity equally for its male and female athletes, including cheerleaders at competitive events, as part of a lengthy list of changes after the National Women’s Law Center raised Title IX complaints against the 134,000-student district.

Last February, a statewide group of physical education teachers in California called for cheerleaders to attend girls’ and boys’ games “in the same number, and with equal enthusiasm” as part of its five-year goals.

The Local - Full fat milk makes you thinner - Swedish study

The Local - Full fat milk makes you thinner - Swedish study:

"Full fat dairy products are more likely to keep you slim than comparable low fat foods. That's the apparently topsy-turvy conclusion of a new Swedish study, which shows that the fat encourages calcium uptake.

Researchers at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute now reckon that daily consumption of full fat dairy products will lead to a reduction of obesity, reported Svenska Dagbladet."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Procrastination Theories

Procrastination Theories:

"Discounted Expectancy Theory

This theory represents the very cutting edge of motivational research. It suggests that the reasons why people make any decision can be largely represented by the following equation:

utility = Expectancy[E] times Value[V]/Sensitivity to delay[G] times Delay until reward[D]

Utility indicates preference for a course of action. Naturally, the higher the utility, the greater the preference. On the top of the equation, the numerator, we have two variables: Expectancy (E) and Value (V). Expectancy refers to the odds or chance of an outcome occurring while Value refers to how rewarding that outcome is. Naturally, we would like to choose pursuits that give us a good chance of having a pleasing outcome. On the bottom of the equation, the denominator, we also have two variables. G refers to the subject’s sensitivity to delay. The larger G is, the greater is the sensitivity. Finally, D represents Delay, which indicates how long, on average, one must wait to receive the payout. Since delay is in the denominator of the equation, the longer the delay, the less valued the course of action is perceived.

How does this theory related to procrastination? Essentially, we are constantly beset with making decisions among various courses of action. Should we go to the gym or watch TV? Should I make dinner or order-in? Discounted Utility Theory suggests, unsurprisingly, that we are more likely to pursue goals or tasks that are pleasurable and that we are likely to attain. Consequently, we are more likely to put off, to procrastinate, difficult tasks with lackluster qualities.

Even more important regarding procrastination is the effects of delay. We like our rewards not only to be large but also to be immediate. Consequently, we will most likely procrastinate any tasks that are unpleasant in the present and offer recompense only in the distant future. In other words, we would be more likely to put off higher priority tasks if there are options available that lead to more immediate rewards with more remote costs. We tend to call such options temptations."

[...]

Evaluation

There is an extremely strong evidence that indicates that this is why we procrastinate:
**First, procrastination is strongly associated with expectancy. Specifically, those people with low self-efficacy, that is feelings of competence, are more likely to procrastinate.
**Second, procrastination is strongly associated with value of the tasks. The more unpleasant people report a task, the more likely they are to put it off. Also, those people low in need for achievement, that is how much pleasure they get from achieving, are more likely to procrastinate.
**Third, procrastination is strongly associated with sensitivity to delay (i.e., G ). Specifically, people who are more distractible, impulsive, and have less self-control tend to procrastinate more.
**Fourth, procrastination is strongly associated with time delay. The closer we are to realizing a goal, the harder we work at it.
**Fifth, Discounted Utility Theory predicts an intention-action gap, where we intend to work but fail to act on these intentions. As expected. procrastinators tend not to act on their intentions.
**Sixth, observed behavior matches what is predicted by Discounted Utility Theory.

Of note, Discounted Utility Theory suggests that many of the previous theories were right, but only in part. They deal with one piece of the puzzle, task aversiveness, and only for the small percentage of people that suffer from the specific condition. For example, consider rebelliousness. If you are a rebellious individual and feel some work is foisted upon you, then you likely also will find it more aversive. Since anything that makes work more unpleasant increases the likelihood of procrastination, rebelliousness would indeed be one contributor to procrastination, though in general its contribution is very small"

The above is from Dr. Pier Steel's site. This is how he describes his new theory of procrastination, which he created after reviewing every study of procrastination published. He mentions other theories and describes the problems with each. Many good procrastination resources there.

In The News: Procrastination

In The News: Procrastination

Dr. Piers Steel, a professor in the Haskayne School of Business and an expert in the research technique known as meta-analysis, has completed a three-year study of just about everything ever written on procrastination. He's analysed almost 700 professional papers from the fields of psychology, economics, philosophy and sociology, and looked at related historical material that dates back 3,000 years.

"We procrastinate because we are built - right in the root of our minds - to value pleasures today more than pleasures tomorrow," Steel says. "Procrastination is an over-valuation of the short term over the long term. It's probably just an evolutionary holdover from a time when a bird in the hand was worth more than two in the bush."

The kind of modern and civilized world we've constructed for ourselves, however, assumes that humans behave rationally. That's clearly not the case, Steel says. "We've built our world around having convenient access to inferior choices, which has made it even harder to choose things that may be better for us in the long run."

At least 95 per cent of the population procrastinates at least occasionally, and about 15-20 per cent do it consistently and problematically. In its extreme forms procrastination causes unhappiness, poor performance, failure to meet life goals and has even been linked to health problems. In the workplace, problems due to procrastination appear to be on the rise as jobs become increasingly unstructured, or at least self-structured.

Steel says procrastination is also quite common whenever you get large groups of people working together. "Governments, or institutions like the central bank, can be impulsive institutions," he says. "They might do what feels good right now and put off making difficult decisions far past the optimal time."

Meta-analysis is a rigorous process of mathematically distilling all the published evidence on a research topic into a conclusion about what we have learned to date. "We don't make progress so much from individual studies anymore," Steel says. "We make progress from studies that amalgamate all the previous work." With meta-analysis, flaws in individual studies tend to cancel out when you combine them among larger sets.

Steel's study, "The Nature of Procrastination," is currently undergoing peer review for publication in an academic journal. Although there are conflicting theories on the subject, he argues that procrastination is directly connected to two major elements: how averse a person finds a given project and, second, to a person's impulsiveness - that is, how much value they place on something in the short term versus the long term.

Some of the earliest known texts, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, have warned against irrational delays when sowing for the next year's harvest. Eighteenth century English writer Samuel Johnson (1751) said of procrastination: "It is one of the general weaknesses, which, in spite of the instruction of moralists, and the remonstrances of reason, prevail to a greater or less degree in every mind."

Steel says that many people who procrastinate try desperately to stop themselves. "It's very close to an addiction. If you can explain exactly why people procrastinate, you can also explain why some people are susceptible to addictive behaviour."

While men are slightly more likely to procrastinate than women, and younger people are the worst culprits, there are some common factors that can contribute to procrastination. These include lagging energy levels and lack of a set routine or goals.

"People tend to give in to their addictions when they become tired; at about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, they are the most likely to procrastinate," says Steel, who advises people to complete their most aversive tasks first thing in the morning.

"It's also important to put distance and space between yourself and any temptations," he says, or to find some other way ahead of time to protect yourself when you know you're going to be vulnerable to the impulse to procrastinate.

Steel is now taking his research on procrastination a step further in trying to develop a unified theory of human motivation that merges streams from several different disciplines. His website, www.procrastinus.com, which has received 800 responses to its online survey, combines both the economic and the psychological ramifications of procrastination.